Thursday, June 30, 2005

I Scream!

I just made a batch of rum raisin ice cream with a Donvier Ice Cream Maker that I rescued from the bowels of my parents' house. Remember that year that they were all the rage in the summer? Yup, I gave my parents one. It's one of those small appliances that people get excited about at first and then completely lose interest in (food dehydrator also comes to mind, oh, and a juicer. Both these things usually make the rounds, being passed off from person to person). Anyway, making the rum raisin required much more effort than I'm used to making to get ice cream (as I normally just buy ice cream), including at least 20 minutes of manual churning. But I got quite a nice product and it was fun, so I thought I would share the recipe I used. It turned out smooth and soft and sweet and rummy. And rum raisin is one of my very favourite ice cream flavours, and it seems to have gone out of style lately. I macerated (you know I just love an excuse to use a cooking term...) my raisins for 48 hours when the recipe only called for two hours, and they're quite good. Next I'll try making Earl Grey tea ice cream (my fav tea - I love that bergamot). Happy cranking!

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Chianti's (W. 4th)

I have had some very nice meals over the years at this well-established Kitsilano restaurant. Chianti Cafe is comfortable, friendly, and casual. This last time, Instant Noodle Girl and I started with the Calamari alla Romana, their deep-fried squid appetizer served with a very tasty garlic tomato sauce. On my previous visit to this restaurant, I had this dish and thought it was absolutely fantastic. In this visit, it was still quite good, but didn't blow me away like the first time. I'm not sure if it was me, or if this dish is just a bit on the inconsistant side.

As Cheeseboy brought up the other day, for certain dishes, it is relatively easy to get a good version of one, but difficult to get a great one. For instance, I'm always on the search for a great cheesecake, a great deep-fried calamari, and a great tiramisu. I did recently get a surprisingly exceptional crème brûlée at Capones in Yaletown last week, though it was really the only part of the experience that was outstanding. Kudos to whoever made that dessert though, for showing me how good crème brûlée could be. With the calamari, it's not the first time I've had a really great calamari (at Alexis Restaurant, a Greek restaurant on Broadway at Vine) and then couldn't quite recreate the experience on subsequent visits.

Anyway, back to Chianti's. Instant Noodle Girl ordered the Fettucine Chianti, pictured here.

Fettucine Chianti Posted by Hello

This yummy pasta has prosciutto ham, mushrooms in a creamy parmesan cheese sauce, essentially adult mac-and-cheese (I mean that in a good way, of course). I had the Pollo Alla Mamma Gina, a chicken breast with mushrooms, green olives, Marsala wine served with spinach fettuccine in tomato sauce. Quite a salty dish, but tasty and tender. I was wishing I had ordered a creamy pasta like my dining companion's though. Although I didn't really have room for dessert, I was ultimately tempted by their peach mascapone pie served with blueberry sauce. A huge cloud of light and fluffy mascapone filling sat on a little layer of peach and a regular pie crust, amidst a pool of whole blueberry sauce. I believe this was a special, and not on their regular dessert menu, but I'm not sure. Instant Noodle Girl had their tiramisu, which was quite nice, and served attractively in a goblet. Chianti's used to do a Monday/Tuesday pasta special and half-orders for all their pastas. I'm not sure that they still do (it looks like they've taken it off the menu). But it remains a good, solid restaurant where you can be fairly confident that you'll get a decent meal and friendly service.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

La Bretagne Creperie, Downtown (formerly Crepe Bretonne)

I've mentioned this place before, but it deserves it's own post to remind people to go again. La Bretagne is on Jervis St., just off Robson. I had a really lovely white flour crepe tonight filled with duck confit, onion, potato and white wine sauce. You can choose a buckwheat flour crepe too. Beautifully crisp crepe. All sorts of yummy fillings on the menu made it hard to choose. It's just a really nice, simple place, so just a simple posting about it is all that's needed. A great place for a breakfast, lunch, early dinner, or dessert. They closed today (a Tuesday) at 8:30 pm. Yet another downtown place that I wish could be open for late night dessert. It hasn't lost any of its charm in the change of owners from the older couple that had it for years and years to the younger one that runs it now.

Friday, June 17, 2005

House of Dosas, Kingsway at Knight St.

Chicken 65 and Dhal-Spinach Vada Posted by Hello

Okay, I just love it when a restaurant I've heard good things about lives up to (and exceeds) my expectations. I can heartily recommend House of Dosas. In fact, let me put it this way: just thinking about the meal again makes me salivate, and want to go back. This restaurant specializes in Dosas, a South Indian and Sri Lankan dish that is essentially an enormous thin pancake (like a crepe), made with ground rice and a type of bean that has been allowed to ferment, filled with a curry. House of Dosas has a wide variety of fillings to choose from. I had the lamb dosa. I love the crispness of the dosa and the spicy filling makes it a very hearty meal. Go hungry. Next time I will get a rava dosa (made with cream of wheat and rice flour instead of dal and rice) like the one Bac'n Girl ordered, which has an even crispier texture, that comes out bubbly and lacy as shown in the photos below. They are all served with a dense coconut chutney (white without chili, red with) and sambar, a thin soup for dipping and drinking. This introduction to the dosa was particularly fun because Bac'n Girl's partner (Definitely Not Bacon Boy), who was born in South India, was dining with us, and explained everything on the menu for me. Not to worry though - the restaurant owner, who was serving us that evening was a charming host, and would happily answer any questions. We started our meal with Chicken 65, tasty, spicy deep fried chicken chunks, and dahl-spinach vada - crispy patties made with lentils. Now that I think of it, I should have asked about the origin of the name Chicken 65. There's always next time! I've heard that their khorma platters are good too.

Onion Rava Dosa Posted by Hello

Lamb Dosa Posted by Hello

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Samosa Snack

Other larger posts are in the works, but here's the perfect little tidbit to tie you over 'til the next big meal: samosas! Many of you will know that one can find wonderful fresh samosas in the shops around Main St. and 49th, an area sometimes referred to as Little India. When I went to explore the area, I bought veggie samosa at four for a dollar! A yummy treat. How on earth does the shop owner make any money on that? Another wonderful (yet illegal) way to enjoy a samosa in Vancouver is Wreck Beach. Having a strange, naked man bring you a samosa and squeeze a blob of chutney onto it for you while you're lying in the sun at the beach adds something to the whole samosa experience, don't you think? He probably acquires them from Little India, and the extra cost (three for $5 I think) seems quite reasonable from the vantage point of a beach towel in that beautiful place. Sure, everyone talks about the naked bodies at Wreck (the only legally clothing optional beach in Vancouver), but did you know what a great foodie experience it can be? The only beach in Vancouver where you can purchase lovely mixed drinks (how about a sangria or an icy Mojito made with fresh mint) served right to your little plot of beach, from a little tray, complete with bendy straw. All manner of snacks are available, just a nod or wave away, as the vendors call out their wares ("Co-co-nut Bun!"..."Jello Shooters"..."Cold Beer!"). It's a very interesting place. Watch all that unlicensed, roaming food and drink magically vanish as the police make their obligatory rounds every so often. So the question is this - does an illicitly sold samosa taste better than a legit one?